UX Strategy: From Planning to Results

July 8, 2024
Min read
Content:
Writing team:
Dmytro Trotsko
Senior Marketing Manager
Dmytro Trotsko
Senior Marketing Manager
Oleksandr Perelotov
Co-Founder and Design Director
Oleksandr Perelotov
Co-Founder and Design Director

In an age where users are harder to please and competition is fiercer than ever, the ability to launch a product quickly is no longer a significant advantage.

Today, what truly sets a product apart is its User Experience (UX). Outstanding experiences are rarely crafted spontaneously. What you need is a well-crafted UX strategy; it's a necessity for businesses aiming to stand out. In this article, we’ll talk about how we can do that.

Understanding UX Strategy

UX strategy doesn’t exist in isolation but rather is a natural extension of broader strategic efforts. It operates within a hierarchy of strategies, cascading from broader business objectives down to specific UX goals. You could visualize this dependency as follows:

An infographic displaying the hierarchy of strategies that goes as follows: corporate, then business, then functional which includes marketing, financial, operational and UX strategies
An illustration of different levels of strategy cascading down all the way to UX

This infographic is just an example. The structure of strategic efforts is different from company to company. The larger the company, the more levels you have to work with.

While the place of UX strategy in the larger picture may vary, its components are very similar. UX strategy can be distilled into three fundamental components:

  • UX Vision (Point B): The desired future state of the user experience.
  • Current State (Point A): The existing state of affairs.
  • Path from A to B: The roadmap to achieve the UX vision.

Another important distinction UX experts at Nielsen Norman Group make is separating strategy and execution. 

Source: Nielsen Norman Group

Before we break down each component of UX strategy, let’s establish why it’s worth the effort.

Why UX Strategy Matters

There are a variety of reasons why UX strategy may be helpful. However, in our experience, there are three key factors.

1. Securing Stakeholder Buy-In

The larger the team, the more often it faces bureaucratic hurdles that can slow down progress. A solid UX strategy helps align stakeholders, reducing roadblocks and ensuring smoother execution.

In other words, getting stakeholder buy-in ensures that you don’t waste hours of work creating something that might get rejected or poorly executed afterward.

2. Enhancing Focus

Regardless of team size, there's always more work than time. A UX strategy provides a clear focus, helping teams prioritize efforts and resources effectively. It’s a great tool to help steer multiple teams in the same direction.

3. Ensuring Alignment

In organizations with multiple layers of decision-making, a UX strategy ensures that all team members are aligned with the overarching vision, reducing miscommunication and inefficiencies.

Okay, UX strategy is definitely useful. But is it useful to you? Let’s find out.

Do You Need a UX Strategy?

UX strategy is definitely not common. It’s a staple to have a business or marketing strategy, but UX rarely makes it into the club. Now here’s why.

In our experience, a UX strategy becomes relevant when the design team grows so large, that it starts needing a unifying vision. In other words, a team of two designers working on an MVP may not need to go as far as UX strategy. For smaller teams, there are more time-efficient tools to achieve that. On the other hand, if an MLP (Minimum lovable product) is what you're going for, UX would require more consideration.

Other than the team size, here are a few other considerations that would facilitate creating a useful and practical UX strategy: 

  • Business Goals Clarity: Ensure UX goals augment core business objectives. 
  • Market Research and User Data: Conduct thorough research to set long-term, worthy targets that differentiate you and satisfy user needs.
  • Product Concept Maturity: If basic concepts are still being defined, it might be too early for a UX strategy. Remember that UX is as much about utility as it is about usability.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Large teams with multiple strategy layers benefit most from a UX strategy.
  • Commitment to Continuous Improvement: Strategies are long-term; ensure your organization is committed to ongoing refinement.

Now that we’re aware of who might benefit from a UX strategy, let’s break down each step.

Crafting a UX Strategy in Three Major Steps

1. Formulating a Vision

Creating a UX vision involves consulting stakeholders, researching the competition, and engaging with users. This approach ensures the vision is distinct, relevant, and supported.

Stakeholder Interviews

All strategies will eventually lead to new activities, budget allocations, team compositions, etc. A lot of these steps will necessitate approvals. That’s why you should gather stakeholders’ input first — to avoid unnecessary hurdles further down the line. 

It’s also paramount to involve people who will be responsible for executing the strategy. Otherwise, they may unwittingly undermine the whole enterprise.

The industry standard for this activity is interviews or workshops to elicit requirements and perspectives on relevant issues.

An example of how gathering stakeholder inputs might look

Competitive Analysis

The primary goal of competitive analysis is finding gaps. And then filing them. In this regard, UX could be conceptualized as a set of features:  Some are missing, some are present and some are poorly executed. The goal is to find the areas that customers value, and competitors either don’t have or have it executed poorly.

That way UX strategy not only helps you serve users better, but also differentiates you on the market.

An example of a competitor analysis we performed

User Research

Lastly, whatever it is you’re envisioning must strike a chord with your users. They’re the ultimate arbiters of UX. There are multiple activities that could help you here:

Quantitative Research (to form hypotheses) 

Use surveys, analytics, and other quantitative methods to gather data. This will help you form hypotheses about user behaviors, preferences, and pain points. Quantitative findings provide a broad view of trends and patterns, which are essential for informed decision-making.

Usability Testing (to validate execution) 

Conduct usability tests to evaluate how effectively users can navigate and interact with your design. This process involves observing users as they complete tasks, identifying any difficulties or frustrations they encounter. Usability testing helps validate the execution of your design and ensures it meets usability standards.

User Interviews (to validate problems) 

Engage in one-on-one interviews with users to gain deeper insights into their needs, problems, and experiences. User interviews allow you to validate the problems your design aims to solve and uncover any unmet needs. These conversations provide qualitative data that can complement quantitative findings and add depth to your understanding.

2. Setting Goals

Vision is great. However, it rarely is specific enough to ensure a complete understanding of the whole corporate structure. This is where goals come in.

Here are a few matters to consider while setting goals for a UX strategy

  1. Align with the Vision: Ensure your goals are in line with the overall vision of the project or organization.
  2. Set SMART Goals: Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  3. Identify KPIs: Determine key performance indicators to track progress and measure success. Make sure those are also strategic company-wide metrics such as user retention.
  4. Involve Stakeholders: Engage stakeholders and those directly responsible for implementation in the goal-setting process.
  5. Prioritize Goals: Focus on goals based on their impact and feasibility, achieving small wins first to build momentum.
  6. Break Down Goals: Divide larger goals into smaller, actionable tasks to make them more manageable.
  7. Review and Adjust: Regularly review and adjust your goals as necessary to keep them relevant and attainable.
  8. Communicate Clearly: Ensure that goals are clearly communicated to the entire team to maintain alignment and focus.

Keeping these tips in mind will set you up for success and help get you ready for the next step.

Source

3. Charting the Path

Here’s a bit of a checklist we use internally to make sure the goals we’ve set are turned into processes and activities to help achieve them:

  • Develop a detailed action plan with timelines. Make sure to consult the responsible stakeholders;
  • Assign responsibilities to team members;
  • Allocate necessary resources, including budget and tools;
  • Identify potential obstacles and plan mitigation strategies;
  • Use project management tools to track progress and manage tasks;
  • Foster collaboration and open communication within the team;
  • Monitor progress regularly and make adjustments as needed;
  • Celebrate milestones and successes to maintain motivation.

Then comes the hard part of bringing the whole enterprise to life. Very few strategies get executed in exactly the same way they were envisioned. It’s okay to course-correct along the way. A good strategy executed is much better than an amazing one on your Google Drive.

{{case-study}}

UX Strategy Examples

Typically, strategic documents are internal. It’s rare to have organizations make them public. However, there are a few pointers that executives publicly shared.

Below is an excerpt from Penny Spaniel’s interview conducted by Maze.

"It became clear that the nation’s largest school system was going to go remote—and that presented its own challenges. Think about kids in special education or those who don’t have reliable internet or share a small space with active siblings and only one computer. Suddenly there were several big issues that needed to be solved.”
— Penny Spaniel

The UX strategy process began with research to clarify both the problem and opportunity space.

"We had a large, brilliant team and so much support from NYDOE—they let us present possibilities and ask lots of questions while supplying us with excellent research on demographics and the needs of students and teachers,”
— Penny Spaniel

This is a great example of a challenge and an accompanying vision to help offer a better solution. 

Okay, we’ve looked at a bit of a real example. However, it’s not complete. Let’s try another exercise and see if we can outline a rough fictional UX strategy for AirBnB.

AirBnB Example

Vision Statement: To provide an unparalleled user experience that makes finding and booking unique accommodations simple, personalized, and delightful for travelers worldwide.

Keep in mind that this statement would have been derived from a global strategy.

To execute this vision, you could divide it into subgoals. Here are a few that would work:

Enhance Personalization:

  • Implement AI-driven recommendations.
  • Introduce customizable search filters.

Improve Mobile Experience:

  • Optimize app interface for seamless navigation and faster load times.
  • Add AR features for virtual property tours.

Streamline Booking Process:

  • Simplify booking steps and instructions.
  • Introduce one-click booking for returning users.

Increase Host Engagement:

  • Develop tools and resources for hosts.
  • Create a rewards program for top-rated hosts.

Expand Customer Support:

  • Enhance 24/7 support with multilingual capabilities.
  • Implement AI-driven chatbots for quick resolution.

While the example we provided is fictional and simplified, it should help to get you thinking in the right direction.

All of these goals would then be decomposed into smaller chunks and assigned to the respective departments, the same way we outlined in the chapter about setting goals.

Another noteworthy thing is that designers would not, could not, be the only ones responsible for formulating the whole UX strategy. Business and technology inputs would be paramount.

Conclusion

A well-defined UX strategy is pivotal for navigating today’s competitive landscape. By aligning UX goals with business objectives, conducting thorough research, and fostering cross-functional collaboration, organizations can create user experiences that truly set them apart.

As exemplified by AirBnB and IBM Consulting, a strategic approach to UX not only enhances user satisfaction but also drives business success.

Verida
Data Wallet Design Case Study

We helped our client raise $50 mil. and win 2 design awards. Here's how.

Preview of the case

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